Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Stacey Bishop (George Antheil) : Death in the Dark, 1930

Article rewritten on occasion of the publishing in U.S. also, after in Italy, of the Antheil novel.
It is recommended read this analysis, after reading the book in question, because many of the plot details are revealed.

To celebrate the first 1000 visits to my blog, I dedicate to my readers a novelty, the analysis of a legendary novel, published only in Italy : Death in the Dark, 1930, by George Antheil.

Once this phrase had a sense, now  he does not have it anymore. Infact after the second publication of this novel in Italy ten years ago -Title of italian publication "La morte nel buio". Preface Mauro
Boncompagni, translation Giancarlo Carlotti – Shake Edizioni, Nnoir Sélavy , Milano, 2009, pagg.188 - now the John Pugmire's publishing house publishes, also in U.S., the Antheil novel.

Death in the Dark hadn't the success Antheil thought to have, for a strange reaction of the public, and so he decided to abandon the ambition of all light literature, and spent his brain energies on other things.
In truth, the noted British critic and novelist Julian Symons said Antheil would write a second novel, in addition to this published at the time by Faber & Faber, the publishing house founded by Elliot, but this second work, nobody has seen. So, unless you are one day buried in some private collection, the only detective wrote and published by Antheil, is Death in the Dark. Why was it the only Antheil’s attempt ? Why the public did not accept him as he would have expected? What did happen it ?
First we say that the Antheil book is super-vandinian novel. 
At the time, in which Antheil wrote, Van Dine was the champion and the archetype to model, especially for an American author as Antheil who albeit temporarily transplanted in Europe (after the First World War had been created a community of Americans: Ezra Pound, Antheil, Hemingway, Miller, etc. ..), especially in Paris,where he had become familiar with European authors: Elliot, Joyce, Miro, Picasso, Stravinskj, De Chirico), deeply resented from Nietzsche’s influence in Van Dine.  Philo Vance detective is a bourgeois, but very rich and cultured, who despises the vulgar, and for which has value only  “the murder committed by a fine art” like wrote Thomas De Quincey. In short, a detective that personified the theories of Nietzsche on the birth of Superman (which in the German writer, beyond the post-mortem manipulation of Nazism, however, has a more philosophical sense). However, this Superman’s philosophy , also had a deeply irrational soul, which is well married with the yearnings of those who wanted to awaken the conscience from the torpor in which they were sunk.
So then Antheil could only create a detective who was largely tributary to Van Dine. And so Antheil, who took the pseudonym of Stacey Bishop, created his Philo Vance who called Stephan Bayard: as Philo Vance is an esthete, a passionate lover and critic of contemporary art (such as impassioned and art critic is Philo Vance), and as Vance music fan, it's just that Bayard of contemporary music, he has a friend Attorney: the Philo Vance’s Markham is the Antheil’s Wayson. And Antheil's novel is based on a Van Dine’s novel, in a manner so obvious,  being almost a quote.
A chain of murders takes place in a house, in New York: at Denny home, wealthy family of the rich bourgeoisie, Dave Denny was found dead for a gunshot in the forehead. What's wrong? The fact that at the time of the shooting, the house was dark: how did the murderer in the dark recognize his victim and how did he shoot him exactly in the middle of the forehead, in his bedroom? The fact is that all the suspects were at the time of the gunshot together in same room: Frieda Alvinson was sunk in an armchair to read, Dr. Stein and John Alvinson were looking out the window, while another, adjacent, or nearly so, was Gertrude Denny, the victim's wife, and finally in his bedroom was sleeping the matriarch of the family, the mother of Denny. There is also a half brother, Aaron, who at the time of the murder, was out of the house.
The surveys seem at first sight more than difficult: who killed, did he take advantage from a fortuitous distraction of the present (the wailing of the sirens of fire that passed under the windows of the house), or was everything knowingly premeditated ? And whom Gertrude expected to see into the bathroom, when Captain Jules opened the door? And who did write a mysterious book in which the crime is described in detail ? And especially why was inserted the door key from the inside, when it was customary that when a belonging to the family was out, he had to hang it  on a hook? And why did the gun shoot  twice and the second bullet was blank?
The fact is that the investigations would lead to Aaron, accused even by his stepmother and whose part in the affair seems to be dangerously established, and the police can not help but stop it, because just as the old mother is about to pronounce the name of the murderer ( him?), someone among the present shoots. Except that no one saw who fired, and, even more strange, the gun that fired, it is found on the bed of the first victim: in practice mysteriously would it have  crossed the aisle that divides the room from the Denny room where the second crime occurred.
Everything solved? No, not at all. Because the suspect is in turn found dead in his cell, killed by a gunshot fired almost point-blank. The strange thing is that no one has seen come in room who killed him, let alone get out and  no gun was found inside the cell.
So among the three crimes one is more insoluble than other.
In the midst of this jungle of suspicion, false leads, more or less convincing evidence, clues solvers, analysis and other weird at all weird, artistic and musical considerations, endocrine Criminological Research, Stephen Bayard will able to trap a murderer of higher mind, smart , vengeful, and evil.
It 'clear that the false line on which Antheil builds his novel, as we have said before, is a novel by Van Dine. Considering the year in which it was not merely writing and publication of his novel (1929), Death in the Dark, she could have just as an example of  vandinian novels are written until that year. Among these is chosen that is still considered perhaps if not “the masterpiece” one of his masterpieces, and one that certainly has affected more than any other, the detective novel tout court: a chain of murders that occur in a family.
Antheil from Van Dine had taken some of the characteristics we have mentioned above. I will say that the same first-person narrator Stacey Bishop, the pseudonym of Antheil, is modeled on S.S.Van Dine, who appears in novels and that is the pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright.
There lies the Greene family, hence the Denny family. In both there is a stepmother, a widow. In both, she is killed. In both there is a library, where there is a particular book, revealing the murder (the first), in both cases there is an evil mind that plans the massacre, in both cases there are artistic considerations, in both cases there is a doctor there, Von Blon, Stein here, but in both cases there is a crime committed with a gun that is not (the third murder), in both cases there is something that is open and that causes death. Too many similar elements not to mention an example of super-vandinian writing.
The thing that intrigued me most, however, is the fact that in a novel built (perhaps) as a tribute to Van Dine and his way of building the novels, there Antheil had entered his thoughts on art (Miro, Picasso) and on music (Stravinskj, Schumann, Raff), giving it the title character, and especially his remarks (which won him, as recalled in the preface Boncompagni, the consideration of the Paris Police) Endocrinology of the nature of the crime.
Moreover, that these assumptions endocrinological crime were his fixation, it is explained by the fact that a few years after the publication of this his novel, Antheil published a separate study, the title of which was Every Man His Own Detective: A Study of Glandular Criminology (1937).
Considerations that he - in the discussion of the novel - assigns to Dr. Stein. But what particularly struck me is how Stein speaks of the phenomenon and how he intends to cure him: and for that, among others, expressed their thoughts on the fact that, using certain scientific devices, you can turn a mass of deficient a series of bright minds. The creation of a super race? The description that makes Stein is a well-educated scientist, but also that blindly believes in his project. The laboratory with all its appliances, and the aura that manages to get around the human body, make me think to  Fritz Lang's “Metropolis”. But the consideration that making a radical change of  centrism thyme he is able to transform a criminal into a bright brain man, a superman, as he says, reminds me  Nietzsche, but also to the studies of genetics that came after it and spotted the chromosome of crime.
Beyond this, the novel, despite being a triumph of pure deduction, it is too difficult for the average reader, because it can be thoroughly understood, requires a reader who knows certain issues, and certainly this may have affected the success of the novel . Perhaps the striking similarity (and I am silent on other similarities even more direct) with The Greene Murder Case, had its importance. Who knows ..
It is certain  Antheil was expecting a great recognition of the public, and instead the reception was not what he  expected. What resulted was a great interpreter of American musical modernism, tried without much luck detective work to deliver wide-ranging history of the genre.
It almost seems like the story of another American musical performer, Blanche Bloch, also she vandinian writer, which gave the story a single novel worthy of note: The Bach Festival Murders (1942).
But that's another story.
Beyond this, an extraordinary novel, published for the second time ever, before in Italy, after the first publication, in 1930, and now in U.S.

Pietro De Palma

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pierre Boileau : La pierre qui tremble, 1934

La “Pierre qui tremble” ( the stone who trembles) is the first of Boileau novels: it is a novel that narratively speaking is closer to 20s than 30s. Begins with André Brunel (the character that will animate all or almost all of Boileau novels) which appears here for the first time, that in the train that is taking him on holiday, he realizes that a suspect is opening one after the other, the compartments wagon where he is, to look inside. Watching him and watching him discreetly but closely enough to thwart probably deadly assault against a young girl, Denise Servières. The young, early twenties, is on his way to Britain where after a week will be her marriage with Lord Jacques de Kervarech, at his castle called "The Stone trembling", by virtue of the stone that is the keystone of the arch leading into the castle, which seems to fall, trembles, but does not fall.
Brunel understands that the attacker came from Brest, having collected the ticket he had fallen in the struggle: that is, he had organized things to leave from Rennes and return to Brest after having possibly killed the girl. He droops because that's where he is on holiday, the sea, the attacker started to kill the girl. Who knows if it will succeed again in his attempt .. For that, Brunel promises as soon as possible, after having rested a few days, to reach the young girl to the castle. When it will happen, he will be in time to foil another attempt to murder the girl, this time perpetrated in the woods that surrounding the castle.
At this point, he promises to her and her boyfriend to settle at the castle until she will bemarried to Jacques: even knows Dr. Nicol, the doctor of the Count, and the Count same Kervarech, Jacques guardian.
The mysteries do not cease: while Denise, Jacques, Count and Brunel are in the lounge where Denise is playing the piano, Brunel seeing toward the door, the first light through the keyhole of the door and then darkness, someone realizes that, at the beyond the half-open door, he turned off the light and it is there lurking: do you understand that they must act. He gives instructions to others present there and then with a leap opens the door in time to see a shadow that flees at the first floor of the new castle. Having no other way out, locks himself in the bathroom. The bathroom has two entrances: one in the hallway and one in Jacques' room. But while both of overseeing and two outputs, and according to the count outside armed (who shot when the fugitive appeared at the window), the intruder, after opening the bath taps, flees. From where? Through the gutter?  When they barge into the room, they do not find anyone. And the other exit is still closed inside. The Count is always there in the garden, he shot the first time and scrutinizes the windows, so when they tell him that the fugitive is gone, he does not believe his ears. Brunel can not understand how it could escape. But it is not the only thing I can not understand.
Denise then Brunel tells how a few nights ago, finding sleep and remembering the bad experience lived by train, she had wanted to breathe a bit the air of the night, and in the park she had found Jacques dressed all who moved stealthily and from him she has known about a threatening secret of which he could not to warn the girlfriend.
Brunel wants to understand what  Jacques was doing in the park at that time and therefore he decides to watch him at night, discovering that at night goes away in the direction of the old tower, the only remnant of the ancient castle, which accompanies the new building where the family lives. Managed to climb himself, he witnesses a strange scene: Jacques in the tower met with the Count and there repeats a series of phrases, absolutely identical to those he utters his interlocutor. Then everything is resolved with a big laugh and a final toast.
Brunel is increasingly astonished: he does not understand anything of what is happening around him.

Things at this point tangle: a home disappears, the valet Jacques, Yvon. And Annette, his girlfriend, another maid, to raise the alarm. They find him lying in serious condition, on the cliffs, stabbed. Yvon is dying, but nevertheless sets the castle and at one point her let us and shrinks in terror: he saw Jacques standing at the window: he fears that he might kill him. A flash and Brunel, fearing the worst, rushes towards the house: Jacques is no longer there. There are no other exits than that through which Brunel is going up on the first floor, and yet no sign of Jacques. Since in his room there and the bathroom door was locked this time on the side of the room, he decides to go in the hallway that leads to the other bathroom door, but even here there is Jacques. Go back to not understanding where it can be released. Find then down, poor Jacques with the skull shattered by a blow but still alive. However he does not understand how he can be got there, he had come on to the house in less than no time and certainly had not seen leaving the young, nor her attacker from where he had entered.

Then .. The affair of the letter. Was sent a letter, which arrived addressed to Brunel. Annette saw it, the count also, but letter disappeared. The mysterious assailant ghost must have taken it. Why ? It was important? However who wrote it, Mrs. Marie Calvez, had had the foresight to send another one, same as the first, to Dr. Nicol. So the two men come to know that the woman may know something that could explain everything.  She has seen the birth of Jacques. She promises to tell all. But before it happens, someone, always he, the mysterious ghost, tries to kill her. But not before she proves something to Brunel. Now Brunel is able to begin rebuilding the arcane, but once again the enemy is lurking in the shadows: just driving the car with Brunel comes to the castle, "La pierre qui tremble" that has endured for hundreds of years to gravity, undermined by crime and placed into balance, as soon as the machine is rumbling beneathit, it falls heavily, hereafter with the other stones of the portal on Brunel machine, that for a  miracle is only wounded :.
There will still be an attempted attack on Jacques wounded, before the culprit is identified and put in a condition he can not harm: he will attempt the impossible, then falling on the rocks. Before he falls on the cliff, they see his face ravaged by the fury: He’s Jacques.
Brunel will reconstruct the story of a terrible secret, and an infamous machinations.
Novel full of tension, half could tell between a thriller, so much anguish pervades the pages, and a mystery, for the questions, really tasty that places (a Locked Room in the bathroom and on the contrary, when Jacques disappears from home to be found then hurt downstairs to the house for a blow to the skull:  on the contrary because to determine the impossibility is not a locked door in a room but a locked door outside the room, which therefore can not have been used to enter in the bath and then out into the corridor), it is interesting for the question that arises, which then is the basis of the solution.
However I think I can safely say that here, although there are a typical environment of Belle Epoque (tender love, defenseless women, naive, incapable of abominable acts, always men murderers, shameful and greedy) and a plot that shows the times that were, and that never will, and issues that now are disappearing (honor, scandal), and although there are also a writing style that denotes the dating, for example the frequent invocations, which in contemporary writing are entirely or almost entirely disappeared, and colorful commentary –Ah! The monster! Or All no! A part ... Ah! It's amazing! Or yet Ah! The dirty (not for lustful acts but for hurting Brunel in hand during the scuffle in the train) or Ah! Do not ask me why, it's horrible! O Ah! Understand, understand ... or even on! Now it is all over! …Oh! It's horrible! ... Awful? What will then say when he will know everything? ... Speak my good friend, talk.
I became crazy! – this novel is much nice.
Of these expressions invocative, the dialogues are full. They testify the novel is dated, the style is even more dated (frequent affectation, like two people greet each other lovingly and then embrace, or rather opposite acts, as if the one who looks good could not hear malevolent feelings, or that he that is evil could not even feed good feelings) and a certain psychological simplicity applied to people: women always helpless, men always arrogant or cruel. So, in such a setting, it has a considerable gnashing the fact the novel presents than others of the same period – characterized by mysteries that relate almost exclusively to the material nature of the impossibility (almost they all are howdunnits) – a psychological high component: here the double mystery of the locked room (remarkable the sound of taps and the murderer fading, or a locked room in reverse, due to the bathroom door in the room Jacques not closed from the inside – as in the closed chamber previously mentioned – but from the outside, which prevents to think the aggressor could have come from there), it is explained not with mechanistic or empirical gimmicks, but resorting to the psychological nature of people: it is the incoherent dialogue between the Count and Jacques (which raises doubts into the reader about what he is reading), joined to the strange nocturnal encounter in the park between Denise and Jacques, and the revelation of Marie Calvez, to solve everything, even the locked rooms.
An history of stained honor, dishonor, a single mother, a son not recognized, money to throw, a heritage of which he enjoyed and which it has since been removed, and which also the killer would want again resorting to murder.
However, the kernel of the solution is in the ambivalent nature of a character such as Jacques that is capable of everything, and to the contrary, which is located where he can not be and that is not located where it should be, and his double. The famous theme of the double, here treated superbly.
So something is explained. The rest not, because just reading the novel and the explanation you understand everything. The solution is one of those that satisfy you, no doubt about it! Boileau has this peculiarity: it creates the foundations of buildings that would not be able to withstand a cabin, however, creates a foundation so strong as to defy gravity. Especially because he creates around a system of clues and facts that find perfectly their explanation at the end, when everything is explained. Before it was not possible to explain it.
I'd like to think Boileau has taken anything from two wonderful cousins ​​Queen, to think he was inspired by The Siamese Twin Mystery, which is of 1933 and then published a year before was published this first novel by Boileau, but in reality is just as possible that Boileau had been inspired by a narrative typically French, previous to his: how not to remember two novels by Alexandre Dumas as Le Vicomte de Bragelonne or Les freres corses, where there is the dilemma of two monozygotic twin brothers? Or another story by Alexandre Dumas, Les deux étudiants de Bologne? But if we think about Queen, undoubtedly the topic of replacing a brother with the other, which is not present in The Siamese Twin Mystery, we find, in a story that is affected in a certain way of setting by Boileau, in The Finishing Stroke byEllery Queen, a true masterpiece, little read and remembered.
The beautiful scene where the villain of the two is going to stab the other, previously from him struck but not killed, I also need to think about another aspect of the novel: how not to think that the elimination of the other, it’s also the reappropriation of the uniqueness of a split identity in two? Because if you kill that, you kill you too, or rather a part that is in you. And you become one!
Moreover, in hindsight, everything would have a value only if no one would notice the change. So the element that undermines all, the killer and his accomplice plan (because without the accomplice, the disappearance in the bathroom could not have been explained!) ecomes the non-replacement. And who has once again of considerable importance in a French detective novel? A servant! As in La maison interdite by Herbert & Wyl!
We think about this fact: no one servant in the British crime fiction of the Golden Age of detection has had greats roles! The servants are only an appendix, because they belong to a subordinate class. This is a concept that it’s possible think about an aristocratic society. But in the American society, at which the dream of Self-made man gives the possibility to each person to become important, also the servant is a person like any other. If we wants the french society is closer to american than english. In none british mystery novel, the servant have an important role in the story, except at a Heyer’s novel: “Why Shoot a Butler?”. The novel is of 1933, while the french novel is of 1934.
The killing of Yvon, the faithful servant, has a fundamental importance, more important than it seems and that it appears: Yvon saw the alter of Jacques, and he must die! If he had not noticed that there was a double, the evil double would be replaced the good double, appropriately killed previously and hidden, he would have  married the girl, it would have acquired the inheritance and Brunel would have thought about the impossibility of a disappearance from the bathroom. You see now what is the legacy of the Viscomte de Bragelonne about this novel?
If Yvon had not noticed the double, if the double had not killed him, if Yvon had not survived because they had not noticed his absence, if he had not indicated the room of Jacques and Jacques himself, all would be like in the killer and his accomplice plan. Instead ...
The good triumphs. For a series of facts absolutely random.
The greatness of Boileau.

Pietro De Palma

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Gilbert Keith Chesterton : The Wrong Shape, 1910 (from The innocence of Father Brown, 1911)

It was a long time I wanted write something about Gilbert Keith Chesterton, the great English

Catholic writer, author of phenomenal books, like that about  St. Thomas Aquinas, which earned him the appreciation of the Pope, Pope Pius XI (the Pope forgotten, who was about to utter the historic encyclical against racism and anti-Semitism, when he died in 1939 before signing it).

In appreciation, Pope Pius XI appealed Chesterton with the title of Defensor Fidei , a title that was not disclosed in England as it would  appeared humiliating that a British subject was called in the same way inherited from the kings of England, since Henry VIII. But so is the story: Chesterton, who converted himself to the Christian faith, gave so many proofs of true conversion in his writings to earn to himself  the praise of the Vatican.

At his death to officiate the ceremony of the funeral was called another Catholic writer and prelate, Msgr. Ronald Knox, author of several mystery novels.

The conversion to all effects is on 1922. But evidently it had to take place in stages, and already some time earlier, at least a decade: in his writings were hints, not so hidden, to a desire to convert. Even those among his writings, that would appear less suited to this: I'm speaking  about the Father Brown stories, detective stories centered on the figure of Father Brown, a very keen Catholic priest in his reasoning, who knows go down the hearts of men and discover the worst atrocities by the force of Faith. The figure of Father Brown was conformed to that of the priest who worked in him the conversion, Father John O 'Connor, Irish Catholic, who stood close him until the death. However, while the protagonist of his Father Brown stories is a scruffy little man, always with an old umbrella, the original was not so scruffy.
To Father Brown were dedicated several books, once the character gained an unexpected success: The innocence of Father Brown is the first of them. It’s formed by the first dazzling tales: The Blue Cross, The Secret Garden, The queer feet , The Flying Stars, The Invisible Man, The honor of Israel Gow, The Wrong Shape, The sins of prince Saradine, The Hammer of God , The eye of Apollo, The Sign of the Broken Sword, The three tools of death'. The first four of them to be published, were put together to form a collection called The Father Brown stories, then extended to bring together all the stories. The most metaphysical of the first stories, an authentic masterpiece, like The Blue Cross, is The Wrong Shape.
The story begins with a description: it’s showed a low building, coloured white and pale green, with shutters and a terrace, with umbrella sheds, and with a strange T-shape. In this – it’s a summer villa, just outside of London, to the countryside -lives the poet Leonard Quinton, famous for his exotic poems, in which he often speaks about havens and eastern hells. Here is also hosted Father Brown, because his friend Flambeau had been a friend of the owner in Paris. Just arrived, the priest warns at the atmosphere, a strange, wicked aura. And perhaps the same T-shape, a T imperfect feeds his doubts. This T-shape, is such that the leg of the T, the shorter arm, is made up by only two elongated and interconnected rooms: “..the first of these two rooms was the study in which the celebrated Mr. Quinton wrote his wild Oriental poems and romances. The farther room was a glass conservatory full of tropical blossoms of quite unique and almost monstrous beauty, and on such afternoons as these glowing with gorgeous sunlight”, where Quinton, aided by narcotics, dreams and ponders his outbursts of fancy.
In the villa, the poet hosts an Indian guru who enjoys hospitality there, supplying the poet inspiration for his poems. Besides him, other few people: the wife of the poet, a woman who for many years caring for her husband who has exceeded opium to describe dreamlike states it caused, and now it has become sullen and by unstable nature ; instead she is a lovely creature, serious, poised and with a great mass of golden hair, but, as Brown says, “That woman’s over-driven,” said Father Brown; “that’s the kind of woman that does her duty for twenty years, and then does something dreadful”.Finally there is the brother of the woman, Atkinson, a parasite which appears dressed in white, with a garish red tie askew and a hat on the crown of the head, which is always on the hunt for money to squander, without a job and an occupation. He’s detested by the poet's physician, Dr. Harris, a little man with a mustache, very ordinary-looking but capable.
Father Brown felt something evil there. Attributes it not only to the shape of villa but also to the Indian holy man, a magician. Wrong shape for him has also a strange dagger with a wavy blade, made not to cut but to torture, in the tall grass of the garden: “Why, look at it,” cried Father Brown, holding out the crooked knife at arm’s length, as if it were some glittering snake. “Don’t you see it is the wrong shape? Don’t you see that it has no hearty and plain purpose? It does not point like a spear. It does not sweep like a scythe. It does not look like a weapon. It looks like an instrument of torture. Father Brown look at the Indian holy man, and at his Indian writing: “They are letters and symbols in a language I don’t know; but I know they stand for evil words,” went on the priest, his voice growing lower and lower. “The lines go wrong on purpose—like serpents doubling to escape” .Father Brown scowls, getting lost at a mystical fog. The same his friend Flambeau recognizes before to the astonished doctor, that when Brown seems lost in mystical discourses that seem crazy, bad things happen then. In a way Father Brown  is a psychic. In front of the doctor who denies his allegations, Father Brown says that while the house is ridiculous in shape but it is not wrong, that dagger is wrong: it is the prologue to the wrong forms.
At that moment Quinton greets the onlookers because it has to go for the usual afternoon nap. Mrs. Quinton comes home, and the doctor goes by his client to make sure he sleeps well and takes the tonic, but in that while the inept brother manages to sneak in the study before the door is closed, so to check an half pound to same  Quinton until before the poet falls asleep.
The clouds are gathering and air manifests the typical electricity announcing the impending storm: Father Brown and Flambeau see the Indian holy man who passes in front of them; for them he’s like a bird of ill omen . As they see him once again stand in the garden near the house, gets out of breath doctor Harris learned who accuses the brother-in-law of Quinton, to have done something  against Quinton: in fact he has seen through the window that his client lies in an unnatural position. Worried, rushes toward the house, followed closely by Father Brown and Flambeau, while Atkinson remains behind.
They open the study and behold, found on his desk a sheet oddly shaped on which with cryptic words are written: " I die by my own hand; yet I die murdered!" While Father Brown looks stunned the sheet, the doctor rushes for greenhouse, just to get back immediately behind and announce the death of Quinton: he’s stabbed in the heart. The hand lies on the dagger. And the dagger is just what first found in the grass, by the wavy shape.
They call the police.
The suicide is self-evident. Still it doesn’t convince Father Brown. What is not convincing:? The shape of the sheet. Another thing wrong, wrong. In fact it is not a rectangular sheet but from a corner is missing a part, as if it had been removed.
Father Brown is to meditate, look, even looks at the cards thrown in the wastepaper basket, finds the scissors and a stack of any missing sheets of a corner. He tries the scissors, conjectures, counts the sheets (23) and corners (22) and then, while they’re waiting for the arrival of the police, he and Flambeau sit under a shed in the garden to smoke and discuss the affair. Father Brown calls the case "very strange". The deductive approach of the priest defines the psychological complexity of the matter:
“You call it queer, and I call it queer,” said the other, “and yet we mean quite opposite things. The modern mind always mixes up two different ideas: mystery in the sense of what is marvellous, and mystery in the sense of what is complicated. That is half its difficulty about miracles. A miracle is startling; but it is simple. It is simple because it is a miracle. It is power coming directly from God (or the devil) instead of indirectly through nature or human wills. Now, you mean that this business is marvellous because it is miraculous, because it is witchcraft worked by a wicked Indian. Understand, I do not say that it was not spiritual or diabolic. Heaven and hell only know by what surrounding influences strange sins come into the lives of men. But for the present my point is this: If it was pure magic, as you think, then it is marvellous; but it is not mysterious—that is, it is not complicated. The quality of a miracle is mysterious, but its manner is simple. Now, the manner of this business has been the reverse of simple.”
The storm that had slackened for a little seemed to be swelling again, and there came heavy movements as of faint thunder. Father Brown let fall the ash of his cigar and went on:
“There has been in this incident,” he said, “a twisted, ugly, complex quality that does not belong to the straight bolts either of heaven or hell. As one knows the crooked track of a snail, I know the crooked track of a man.”
The white lightning opened its enormous eye in one wink, the sky shut up again, and the priest went on:
“Of all these crooked things, the crookedest was the shape of that piece of paper. It was crookeder than the dagger that killed him.”
“You mean the paper on which Quinton confessed his suicide,” said Flambeau.
“I mean the paper on which Quinton wrote, ‘I die by my own hand,’” answered Father Brown. “The shape of that paper, my friend, was the wrong shape; the wrong shape, if ever I have seen it in this wicked world.”
Basically, if others think that Quinton has committed suicide, because no one can have killed him, because he was asleep at the time since he died, before their eyes, beyond the greenhouse, and all the characters were present in garden, Father Brown suspects, indeed already he  already knows that he was killed. But how? A crime that seems so much illusion. Could be the Indian guru the killer? But he was in the garden! A murder case with hypnotism? No. Yet the facts do not give reason to the priest. But he pins his whole house of cards, on that other paper by the wrong shape: it was written on a piece of paper by the wrong shape. Twenty-three were the sheets with the cut corner, including the one with the sentence, but only twenty-two paper corners Father Brown  found, and so the one that came from the offending sheet had to be destroyed. Why? Because of it there was something no wider than a comma, that is ... two commas. In other words, who has cutted the corner he has done it because a phrase with quotes, which by chance was beginning a white sheet, was deprived of the quotes and seemed to punch a written sentence by a suicide.
Father Brown knows who killed the poet among Atkinson, the indian guru, the doctor or the Quinton wife. Yet he  gives the killer a way to escape: his purpose is not to catch the culprit and bring him to justice, but rather to redeem a sinner, to save another ewe that was being lost.  He offers him to write a report mentioning things that only the killer knows and to deliver it in the belief that he, the priest, engaged in a completely confidential profession. In essence, he asks him to confess in a letter that he will deliver. Thing that he will make.
The murderer confesses and confesses because he killed the poet, and at the same time confirms the hypothesis of the priest about the wrong shape of the sheet.  And confessing his crime, the killer admits that for the first time he feels remorse for what he did. 
The story is one of those by Chesterton whom Carr so much liked, so that the character of the Doctor Fell was created looking right at the mammoth figure of Gilbert Keith Chesterton himself.  It’s in fact a story with an Impossible Murder, rather with a Classic Locked Room: the greenhouse is a space enclosed by glass walls, whose only entry / exit is made from the door intercom with the study, the door of which is in turn It remained closed, and indeed all the characters in this mini-drama interacted outside the greenhouse, in the garden, except his wife, who went to his room, but that was visible from the garden below; and each of them was guarded - so to say - by the other. So it becomes difficult to demonstrate how the murderer has killed, if it is true that until a given time Quinton was alive and then he is died, suicide victim..ma not so much.
Locating the murderer does not seem to me so daunting, but instead is understanding how he killed and especially understanding  the motive of the murder, because each of the actors in the drama, apparently has no reason to kill Quinton ... indeed. For all persons in fact the poet is the classic "goose that lays the golden eggs."
It 'clear that at the actio delicti a very important part is a kind of illusionistic game, which goes well with the atmosphere in which moves, for example, the Indian guru; but also the screening of the paper from the wrong shape is a must, being a surprisingly wise of deduction.  
Also there is no trace of a text that Quinton was writing, which concerned the possibility that apparently an Indian holy man (another guru) could result with the power of thought the suicide of a British army officer. It has disappeared : burned in the fireplace? The fact that there dwells an Indian guru does not mean automatically that he is the murderer.
It seems that Chesterton is liable at least of Zangwill, as well as the same Carr may have drawn inspiration from this story for those of his works that speak about the distance murder, like "The Reader is Warned". It may have influenced both Vindry and Agatha Christie.
The staging is embodied in three distinct phases that are indispensable to each other: youmust wait for Quinton sleep (and the doctor then gives him thenarcotic); you have to create the last fake message of the suicide; and finally you have to kill . However, I emphasize how the same message of suicide reveals in its duplicity, as the same premeditated murderer was not quite free from a reflection on what he was doing: the murderer is not an evil being who kills for interest ( oh my God is also that !), but it is not said that his purposeis no less noble than others, because it tends to a better situation as for the murderer as for the victim (which it’s  better it’s dead, once for all instead living ill destroying the life of his wife).  Moreover, being a person who conceals his moral nature, in the amorality of the act the killer has made, it is as the killer had, when performed the act, wanted to suggest suicide was not really such: in fact using a script of the dead in which the victim claims to die by his own hand but instead he died killed from another (the officer of the British army), anticipates exactly what it will happen to Quinton. It therefore insinuates that although the appearance of the situation suggests that it was suicide (the victim was found with the hand that was still holding the dagger, sunk in the heart), in reality the exact  interpretation of the unfolding of the facts is proving  the murder . For more, premeditated. At this point, since the killer premeditated since some times to kill the victim, it would not have been easier forging a letter and carrying a message that spoke only about suicide?
However, we are faced with a masterpiece, also for the refined writing (the description of the places reveals expertise fiction for example). No coincidence Antonio Gramsci , the greatest Italian Marxist thinker and founder of the Italian Communist Party in the '20s, died in prison for anti-fascist activities, in his letter to (sister) Tania, of 6 October 1930 (from “ Letters from Prison”), analyzes the work of Chesterton comparing it for example to that of Conan Doyle:
"Thank you for all that you have sent me. Two books haven’t  been delivered yet: the "fascist Bibliography" and the tales of Chesterton that I will read again for two reasons. First because I imagine that they are as interesting as the first set and second because I will try to reconstruct the impression that they had to make on you. I confess that this will be my greatest delight. I remember exactly your state of mind when you read the first set: you had a happy disposition to receive more immediate impressions and less complicated from cultural sediments. You were not even able to realize some Chesterton wrote a delicate caricature of detective novels more properly said than the detective stories. Father Brown is a Catholic who mocks the way of mechanical thinking of Protestants and the book is basically a defense of the Roman Church against the Anglican Church. Sherlock Holmes is the "Protestant" detective who finds the thread of a criminal skein starting from the outside, relying on science, on the experimental method, on induction. Father Brown is the Catholic priest, who through refined psychological experiences given by the confession and by the workings of moral casuistry of the catholic ancestors, without ignoring the science and experience, but relying especially on deduction and introspection, beats Sherlock Holmes in full , he makes he looks a little pretentious boy, it shows the narrowness and pettiness. On the other hand Chesterton is a great artist while Conan Doyle was a mediocre writer, even if was done knight for literary merit; therefore in Chesterton there is a stylistic gap between the content, the intrigue thriller and the form style, i.e.  a subtle irony towards the subject matter that makes more tasty the tales. Do you think about? I remember you were reading these stories as if they were chronicles of true facts and you identified yourself up to express a sincere admiration for Father Brown and his marvelous acumen, in a manner so naïve than it extraordinarily enjoyed me." [1]
The reflection of the Marxist historian, seems to me perfectly centered, both for the time at which is created Father Brown (more or less that of Doyle) and for the fact that Father Brown is entailed in practice, however, in an alter Sherlock Holmes, but  Catholic . Indeed, while SH is an example of the society in which the mechanistic positivism reigns (SH analyzes a given fact based on evidence and scientific experiments, and thus solves a problem based on the induction), Father Brown is an example of psychological insight and deduction, and he’s a combination of faith and reason (a denial of fideism), as well as Aristotelian thought applied to the patristic. In addition, the way of thinking of Father Brown leverages high psychological reflection that is completely lacking in SH: Father Brown, as claims to go down to the heart of man to find the Evil (or the Good), ends up understanding the culprit as he can think like him. In addition, he bases all his actions, on theological reflections applied, which are always extremely well-aimed to probe the problem that is proposed.

Pietro De Palma

[1] My translation